About the city

tampa skyline

Welcome to Tampa …

“America’s Next Greatest City,” that has already established itself as more than just a beautiful, white sandy beach.

Named “sticks of fire” by a Native American tribe, possibly due to the natural displays that have led it to be dubbed the Lightning Capital of the World, Tampa is a bustling business center filled with entertainment and cultural options, bottled up with the sunny, warm clime of a Florida beach community.

Located on Florida’s West Coast, bordering the Gulf of Mexico, Tampa is a growing city of about 350,000 people, while the greater bay community is home to nearly 3 million.

Incorporated in 1849, just four years after Florida became a state in the U.S., the small settlement grew from a frontier outpost to a bustling city by the early 1900s. That early growth came due to Tampa’s first major industry: cigars. At its height, the Ybor City neighborhood had 150 working cigar factories, where more than 500 million cigars were hand-rolled before the Great Depression.

These days, the Tampa economy is quite diverse, spread across the service, retail, finance, insurance, shipping, defense, tourism and real estate industries. Fortune 1000 companies OSI Restaurant Partners, WellCare, TECO Energy and Raymond James Financial are headquartered in the Tampa Bay area, and many corporations maintain regional offices in the community, which also houses the main server farm for Wikipedia and other companies.

True to its beginnings as a frontier outpost, Tampa remains a military town. Historic Fort Brooke (which became its own stand-alone town for a time) remains a part of the history of Tampa, currently housing the Tampa Bay History Center and Tampa Convention Center. The military has moved to more modern digs. MacDill Air Force Base employs more than 15,000 active military, Department of Defense civil service, and contractors in the bay area.Read More...

The installation hosts the 6th Air Mobility Wing and is home to U.S. Central Command headquarters, U.S. Special Operations Command headquarters, the 927th Air Refueling Wing, U.S. Marine Forces Central Command headquarters and U.S. Special Operations Command Central headquarters, as well as other active and reserve components of the military.

Among the bay area’s 20 hospitals are three ranked on US News and World Report’s “America’s best hospitals” list. The University of South Florida’s Byrd Alzheimer’s Institute is a prominent research and care facility, and the area is also home to the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center & Research Institute and the Pepin Heart Institute. Tampa is also home to one of 22 Shriners Hospitals for Children.

Much of Tampa’s economic activity centers around its transportation infrastructure. The city was the site of the first commercial passenger airline, which landed in Tampa in 1914, just a decade after the Wright Brothers’ first flight at Kitty Hawk. The historic flight by pioneering aviator Tony Jannus is memorialized in an exhibit at Tampa International Airport, which serves nearly 17 million passengers a year and consistently rates as one of the best airports in the nation on lists from CNNGo, Zagat and Condé Nast.

Tampa Bay has been a favorite location for sea travel and shipping since the 16th century, growing into the seventh-largest port in the country, handling nearly half of all seaborne commerce in Florida. It is also the second-most-popular destination for cruise ship travel in Florida, serving as a port of call for some of the most popular cruise services, with ships traveling to Mexico, Honduras, Belize, and Eastern and Western Caribbean Islands.

The region’s seafaring history has led to one of its most enduring traditions, the Gasparilla Pirate Festival. The mock pirate invasion, which dates back 100 years, which leads a parade that draws 400,000 attendees for “Tampa’s Mardi Gras” and has spurred other pirate-themed events from January to March, including the Gasparilla Children’s Parade, the Gasparilla Distance Classic, the Gasparilla Festival of the Arts and the Gasparilla International Film Festival.

Other popular events include the Outback Bowl on New Year’s Day, the India International Film Festival of Tampa Bay, MacDill Air Force Base’s Air Fest, and Ybor City’s Guavaween (a Hallowen festival with a Latin flair) and “GaYbor Days,” an annual GLBT event.

All throughout the year, Tampa has offerings for sports lovers. If you count the NBA’s Orlando Magic, which plays about an hour and a half away, the city has a team in every major league sports league, including the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the NHL’s Tampa Bay Lightning and Major League Baseball’s Tampa Bay Rays. Arena football’s Tampa Bay Storm and the Tampa Bay Rowdies of the North American Soccer League also play in the bay area, and several MLB teams conduct spring training in the area. In addition, local colleges, including the University of South Florida, the University of Tampa and Hillsborough Community College, field teams in a variety of sports.

With many pro wrestlers settling in the bay area, Tampa has reportedly become “de facto” headquarters for professional wrestling, as well as the home of Florida Championship Wrestling, a developmental program of the WWE.

Among the city of Tampa’s 165 parks and beaches — and 42 more in suburban Hillsborough County — is the Bro Bowl, the first public skate park built in Florida, which opened in 1979.

Only in Tampa

One of the oldest attractions, the Tampa Theatre, has been a symbol of Tampa’s arts and cultural imagination since 1926, hosting not only film festivals but concerts and other performances, and even a popular summer film camp under its faux starry sky. The ornate theater, designed to look like a Mediterranean courtyard, has been recognized by Life Magazine as one of “America’s 21 Wonders” and was recently named one of the 10 best movie theaters in the world by The Motion Picture Association of America.

Other popular performing arts venues include the Gorilla Theatre, the MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre and the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts, which is the largest performing arts complex south of Washington, D.C.’s Kennedy Center and is home to Opera Tampa, the Tampa Bay Symphony, the Florida Orchestra and other groups. The Straz Center has been ranked in the top 10 for ticket sales among theater’s its size, according to Pollstar Magazine.

Along the Tampa Riverwalk, a trail under development in the city Arts District, patrons can visit the Tampa Museum of Art, Glazer Children’s Museum and the Florida Museum of Photographic Arts, as well as view a series of outdoor statues along the way.

Tampa is home to a wide variety of museums, including the Museum of Science & Industry, the University of South Florida Contemporary Art Museum, the Tampa Firefighters Museum and the Henry B. Plant Museum, not to mention the World War II Victory Ship museum, located on a permanently docked ship.

For fun, residents can visit Busch Gardens Tampa Bay, a theme park that covers 335 acres. In addition to roller coasters, the park is filled with African wildlife. Next door, Adventure Island is a water park that allows families to have fun while beating the heat.

Visitors can enjoy more than 2,000 animals, rides and exhibits at the Lowry Park Zoo, and the 250,000-square-foot Florida Aquarium features more than 20,000 species of aquatic plants and animals.

Nestled into the west-Florida coast on the beautiful Gulf of Mexico, the Tampa Bay area is a magical mix of a bustling metropolis, thriving academic world, vibrant cultural life, high-tech hotspot and recreational paradise. Home to Tampa and St. Petersburg, Florida’s two most populous cities, it not only beckons to those in other locales but a majority of those who grow up in this marvelous environment choose to stay.

Hillsborough County, home to the City of Tampa, lies midway along the west coast of Florida. Its diverse economy supported by agriculture, finance, health care, technology and the port of Tampa, helps this successful community maintain its standing as one of the most enjoyable Florida locations in which to live, work and play.